We're not exactly fashion mavens here at New Times, but according to sources in the know, Judith Ripka is a big deal in the jewelry world. The New York City-based designer has 120 stores around the country and is promoted heavily on QVC.
But she allegedly has an, uh, interesting approach to home decoration. According to a nasty lawsuit filed up north by her former interior decorator, when the designer was outfitting her Palm Beach home, she pushed her employee to swap sex in exchange for a deal on furniture.
The lawsuit was filed recently in Nassau County, New York, by Tristan Harstan. According to the New York Daily News, he was the interior designer behind Ripka's Madison Avenue flagship store. Harstan's gig with the designer was full-time, and in addition to a fee, he was paid 30 percent of the items brought in for a project. The hitch, according to the lawsuit, was that Ripka wasn't interested in paying full price for anything. She allegedly bartered deals all the time, like swapping $350,000 worth of jewels for art.
And apparently she tried to barter Harstan's own sweet ass.
One of Harstan's jobs was to stock the Palm Beach home Ripka owned with her husband, attorney Ronald Berk. According to Palm Beach County property records, a Ronald Berk purchased a 4,725-square-foot home on Tangier Avenue in 2011 for $3.35 million. The couple apparently were keen to have furniture maker Nancy Corzine create pieces for their pad. But Ripka wasn't keen on the sticker price.
The lawsuit claims that the jewelry designer pressured Harstan to sex up Corzine to get a deal on the furniture. "On three different occasions defendant Ripka-Berk instructed plaintiff prior to his personal meetings with [the furniture maker] to 'do whatever it takes so that she could get her furniture' and that he should 'bed her'; 'seduce her'; and 'f-k her.'"
He didn't do it, says the lawsuit.
Harstan allegedly had his own snappy riposte to the demands, telling his boss he was "not a male prostitute but her interior designer." He did, however, order $1 million worth of furniture for the house. Ripka later canceled the order.
The relationship between Harstan and his boss went south from there. The lawsuit says he resigned in July 2010. The former employer allegedly still owes him more than $100,000 -- hence the lawsuit.
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